I opposed the war in Iraq because I thought it would lead to the peace from hell, but I’d rather not see my prediction come true and I don’t think we have much time left to avert it. That the occupation is not going well is apparent to everyone but Donald Rumsfeld. If this thing turns into Vietnam simply because that man is too vain and arrogant to admit that Gen. Eric Shinseki was right when he said we would need “several hundred thousand soldiers” over there, I hope Rumsfeld rots in a hell worse than the one he’s making.

Now is not the time to stand back timidly hoping it will work out well in the end. The population of Baghdad is broiling through the 115-degree summer without electricity or water for much of the time. Given the background poverty and generally hideous conditions, the place is a major riot waiting to happen.

As we have known ever since the Kerner Commission Report, all it takes is a couple of bad policing incidents to set one off. It is more than painfully apparent that the Pentagon did somewhere between inadequate to zero planning for the occupation, despite the equally apparent fact that this war was settled on more than a year in advance and then intelligence was bent to support it.

Hugh Parmer (formerly of Fort Worth), head of the American Refugee Committee (ARC), was in Iran and Iraq at the beginning of the summer, the first NGO (non-governmental organization) to go in because ARC had privately funded relief supplies. He was fairly shaken by what he found.

Among other things, the crack disaster-relief team he had created while he was with USAID under President Clinton was sitting around filing their fingernails because the military was rejecting all advice from civilians in favor of doing it their way. Since the military is in this mess precisely because it is not well-trained at peacekeeping, you’d think it’d have enough sense to ask people who’ve been there and done that. That would include the United Nations and NATO.

Parmer was there while Gen. Jay Garner, Rumfeld’s choice, was still in charge. Clearly that was a mistake, but Paul Bremer, the current viceroy, also seems to have thin credentials. He is described as a diplomat, but he’s actually a counterterrorism expert with business ties to many major corporations. We don’t need people with credentials as right-wing ideologues and corporate privatizers — we need people who know how to fix water and power plants.

The late Fred Cuny of Dallas, who was killed in Chechnya, is exactly the kind of person now needed in Baghdad. Cuny was an engineer and a sort of Milo Minderbinder who could find anything, fix anything and finagle anything no matter how disastrous the war zone. He was chiefly famous for his work in Sarajevo during the siege there. He ran a small, private company out of Dallas and always said the only reason he charged for his services was that governments don’t listen to advice unless they pay for it.

I don’t know whose idea it was to cancel municipal elections in Iraq, but it looked awful. We fought the war to bring democracy to Iraq, remember? Anyone there with any sense of public relations? Setting up an “advisory council” in Baghdad isn’t going to cut it.

Maj. Gen. Carl Strock said Monday electricity and water in Baghdad are still below prewar levels. The New York Times noted, in its Timesly way, “The assessment appeared to run counter to earlier assurances by the Pentagon ...” Rumsfeld, with his usual cocksure breeziness, said on May 15: “A few areas have challenges, to be sure. But most areas are progressing and a growing number actually have conditions that are today estimated to be better than prior to the recent war.” What number, from what to what? Out of how many?

When is the Washington press corps going to figure out that’s precisely the kind of statement by Rumsfeld that needs extensive deconstruction? The New Republic’s ruthless dissection of the administration’s lies, deceptions and flimflam in its June 30 issue (don’t miss it) is a stinging rebuke to the disgraceful level of journalism we are now getting in this country.

Have you ever read anything as tortured and ridiculous as Ari Fleischer’s non-admission admission that Bush lied about the supposed Iraq-Niger uranium deal? Not even Clinton at his most “depends on what the definition of is is” could top that one. Do look it up.

Ol’ “Bring ‘em on” Bush talks tough and can’t even figure out how to find the right stick.

To find out more about Molly Ivins and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at COPYRIGHT 2003 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.